EMS (Slang) Glossary
is not going to be a medical dictionary. One can easily
find a dictionary or textbook for all of the medical terms used
in EMS. Many of them are used on television shows all
the time. But there appears to be a few terms, that
when used by emergency workers and heard by reporters
that cause confusion. For example, just the other day,
I heard a television reporter refer to the criteria
for not starting CPR on a person as, "When there
is decomposition, decapitation, rigor mortis, or the
family is upset." The last criteria was their
misinterpretation of the word "lividity." They
probably used the definition of this as "the state
of being livid" which most people think is about
This glossary is more about slang and common abbreviations. If you have a word your would like to be included here, please share it with us.
Automated External Defibrillator- An automatic
device for the defibrillation of patients suffering
from a convertible heart rhythm. It is "automatic" in
the sense that the user does not need to be able
to read or interpret heart rhythm on the ECG. The
device will often have a voice that says "Shock
now." the operator only has to stand back and
press one button.
Life Support (ALS) - Medical care provided
by paramedics. This includes the administering of
medications, defibrillation and providing advanced
airway management prior to transportation to the
hospital. This is much like the treatment the patient
would receive in the hospital ER.
X 3 - ("Alert and oriented times three") -
Basically the patient knows "who they are" "where
they are" and when they are. I once had a patient
know their name, where they were, and that the president
was Richard Nixon. Unfortunately, this was in 1989.
Our next question was "What year is this?" He
confidently answered "1973". That is why
we ask such dumb questions.
Bagging /Bag Him - While you might think that this means something to do with a body bag, it does not. This means to use a "Bag Valve Mask" to assist breathing or to provide other respiratory support.
Life Support (BLS) -
This is what an EMT can provide.
Slang term for MICU. Appears to be used by many departments. "I'm
on the 'box' today." Means, "Today is my
opportunity to be assigned to the MICU, thanks to the
fair and pleasant rotation schedule implemented by
our illustrious and wise station officer."
C-Spine - The cervical vertebrae. A very important part of the body to protect from movement after trauma.
C-Collar- A cervical collar use to protect the c-spine from movement.
DRT- "Dead Right There." Take the place of "Pronounced deceased on location." USUALLY ONLY USED IN SLANG, NEVER ON A FORM OR EVEN ON THE RADIO.
- Ethane (C2H4)
is abbreviated as "ET". If a Hydroxyl group
(OH) is added it becomes C2H4O,
or Ethanol. This is commonly known as "drinking
alcohol". If you hear a paramedic say "ETOH
on board" you can guess what is being said.
Flyer - Someone who uses the EMS system
often. This can be someone who often abuses the system
by calling for an ambulance, who really doesn't need
one. But more often it is someone with a persistent
medical condition who frequently really needs assistance.
It isn't a derogatory term as much as just a description
of someone we see often.
/ Postmortem Lividity / Livor Mortis - A
condition where the blood pools, due to being uncirculated,
in the lower (dependant) parts of the body. This
causes a dark red to purple discoloration. It is
often used as a sign that the patient is no longer
revivable and is pronounced dead. CPR can usually
be stopped if this condition is found. Note: This
the term "livid" which does not just mean "very
angry" but rather so upset that the face turns
red. Lividity can mean any unnatural color of skin,
this can be from a bruise, for example. While EMS
workers will simply say "lividity" what
we really mean is postmortem lividity. More info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Livor_mortis
/ No LOC / No ΔLOC - Unfortunately
this abbreviation has different meanings in various
systems and parts of the country. This can mean "loss
of consciousness" or "level of consciousness".
If someone says "No LOC" they probably
mean that there was no loss of consciousness. If
they write on their form "No Δ LOC" they
probably meant that there was no change (Δ)
in the level of consciousness.
(Mobile Intensive Care Unit)
This is what many people mistakenly refer to as an “ambulance”.
Many fire departments will still write the word “ambulance” on
these vehicles because people expect it. A MICU is
capable of Advanced Life Support (ALS). In the past,
the job of the ambulance was to transport the patient
to medical care as soon as possible. The term "ambulance" comes
from the word "ambulate" which means "to
move about". Today the goal is to bring advanced
medical care to the patient as quickly as possible.
With the exception of some procedures, such as blood
replacement, surgery and some lab tests, the paramedics
on the MICU can perform just about any procedure you
would get at a hospital emergency department in the
first thirty minutes of care. There are some variations
on the name of this vehicle. In Canada they may be
labeled, "Advance Life Support Ambulance, Ministry
of Health". You might also see "ALS Ambulance" on
the sides of vehicles.
/ MVC - Several definitions exist, but they
all mean the same thing. "Motor Vehicle Accident", "Major
Vehicle Accident", "Motor Vehicle Collision", "Major
Vehicle Collision". Some areas are wanting to
change to the "MVC" term because they feel
that "MVA" suggests a determination of
fault (or lack there of) while MVC does not have
a connotation of no one at fault. Many police departs now just say "crash."
- Pupils Equal and Reactive to Light Appropriately.
- Passed Out Prior To our Arrival.
TKO - "To
Keep Open" Also known by some other abbreviations.
This is an IV line for the purpose of keeping open
a route for drug administration. This is usually a
just precautionary action. In many areas a "Hep-lock" has
taken the place of a full IV.